Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Not As Simple As It Seems - Eleanor Shepherd

This week, on vacation we were able to visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I have always admired the Reverend Billy Graham and his single-minded determination to present people with the claims of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is consistent whether he is speaking to heads of state, media moguls or crowds of ordinary people. 
                What I liked about the presentation is the recognition that while God has used Billy Graham for His purposes, many other people have been a part of the ministry.  The history of evangelism portrays how the life and ministry of Billy Graham have their part in what has gone before and what will come after in terms of world evangelism. 
                As I watched video clips of the Billy Graham crusades, I realized again how easily we make assumptions that evangelism is simple process.  Billy Graham preaches the clear Gospel and people immediately respond and make a decision to follow Christ the rest of their lives. 
Billy Graham Library - Charlotte, NC
                As I listened to the testimonies of different individuals who came to faith at Billy Graham crusades or through his television and radio ministry, their stories confirmed it does not usually happen quite that magical way.  The process is often much more complex.  Someone who makes a commitment to Christ in response to the preaching of Billy Graham has often been thinking about the meaning of life for quite a long time.  They may have had brief encounters or long discussions with friends, family members or work acquaintances about faith.  Somehow, as Dr. Graham preaches ideas begin to crystalize in their minds and they decide to act upon this understanding.  Often a loved one has been praying for them to come to an understanding of the truth for many years.  The Spirit of God brings together many different incidents in the life of a person and uses the ministry of Dr. Billy Graham, supported by all that is going on in prayer and spiritual warfare behind the scenes.  Integration begins to take place in the life that person and they are able to recognize the truth of the Gospel message. 
                We love to believe that somehow like magic, when a person has the opportunity to hear the Gospel preached they will suddenly see the light and be transformed.  We crave quick answers and easy fixes.  We want things fixed and in good working order right away. 
I think about how when I arrived at my hotel this evening, I wanted to be able to link up to the Internet right away, so I could be in contact with everyone and do what I needed to do this evening.  However, I needed to get the code for the Wi-Fi from the hotel receptionist.  I needed to dig my computer out of the trunk of the car, set it up and wait until I could log in to the Wi-Fi before I could begin.  These are not complicated transactions, but they do take a few minutes to get up and running.  How much more so is it with the life transformation and integration that we are expecting of people when they come to faith?
My experience  reminded me of the dimmer switch analogy that I use in my book about evangelism, More Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening.  There are many things going on in our lives that keep us from making quick decisions about profound changes.  We need to integrate our knowledge of God and decide to apply that knowledge in the everyday decisions of life we make. 
This integration is what I mean when I talk about the dimmer switch.  One element in our lives is our knowledge about God.  This may be minimal, just as there is very little light when we turn the dimmer switch down low.  On the other hand, we may have been learning the truths of Scripture all our lives and have a great deal of knowledge about God and His ways.  This would be like when we turn the dimmer switch up high and brighten the whole room. 
In either of these cases, where the dimmer switch knob is located makes no difference if the knob has not been pushed to turn the light on.  This action requires a decision from us.  We must decide to turn the light on.  When both actions take place, we turn on the dimmer switch when we choose to begin to apply our knowledge of God to our daily lives.  Then integration and life transformation begin to take place.  
Word Guild Award
              Christian Leadership 2011   

Word Guild Award
                Award of Merit 2009

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

Thank you Eleanor.
I very much appreciate your reflections of Dr. Billy Graham and your thoughts on the process and dynamics behind a person's coming to Christ.
Your dimmer switch analogy is a very apt and helpful illustration.

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